Reading the water meters across Tulsa remotely

Thursday, September 23rd 2004, 10:13 am
By: News On 6

The city of Tulsa started a new plan to read water meters that can save money and eliminate the need to go in yards to read the number. It's a high tech change that makes it possible to read meters from blocks away.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan has the story.

When Bob Lewandowski cuts a path down a narrow alley - it's only to make the point - he doesn't have to walk down in the alley at all to read the water meters anymore. That's because of a little silver disc - part of a system that transmits the reading to the street. Bob reads the meters from the road now - at 25 miles an hour. "About the speed limit in the residential areas picks it up."

The city just started installing the new meters – 2,000 of them so far - on the most difficult meters in town. Frank Erwin with City of Tulsa Customer Service: "We can read an entire route of meters that would take a whole day to do; we can do it in 15 to 20 minutes."

Each of the new meters cost about a hundred dollars, but over time the city could save money on manpower. They replace the old meters, and connect to a small box in the ground. Only the flat antenna shows.

The new meters are going into places where the meter is hard to get to, or where it's a little dangerous for the meter reader to go. The most common problem is angry dogs - but in older neighborhoods, where the meter is often in the back, people are leery of strangers passing through.

Jim Cameron of the Utility Authority pushed for the move to automation. "As technology improves and prices come down, perhaps we can saturate the city."

The city remotely reads only a fraction of the 145,000 meters. It's still cheaper to do most of them the old fashioned way - but that equation is changing.